Egypt's divorce rate up by 86% over past decade: Minister

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 27 Nov 2018

Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali says economic reasons are largely to blame for the high divorce rate in Egypt

Egypt's Social Solidarity Minister Ghada has said the number of divorce cases in Egypt has increased over the past decade from around 100,000 to a record 186,000.

Wali told MPs on Tuesday that new measures are being taken by the government to stem the high surge in divorce rates, which make up around 20 percent of some 980,000 marriages held every year. 

During a meeting with members of parliament's Social Solidarity Committee, Wali attributed the rise in divorce cases in Egypt to hard economic conditions and low employment rates.

"People who marry but their low incomes do not help them live a decent life mostly end up with divorce," Wali said.

She added that the government is developing a comprehensive programme to address the problem of high divorce rates in Egypt.

"This programme will be reviewed personally by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who has ordered many times that a solution be found as soon as possible," said Wali, adding that "in preparing this programme, the government has reviewed the experiments of three Muslim countries – Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman – where divorce rates are largely low."

Wali said that in Malaysia, divorce rates have dropped from 35 percent to 10 percent a year.

"They took legislative measures there that led to stemming the tide in this respect," said Wali, adding that "in Malaysia, laws stipulate that only judges conduct divorce procedures, and that a divorce goes into effect after six months."

"In the UAE and Oman, the focus was on media campaigns and awareness programmes that helped a lot in this respect," said Wali.

President El-Sisi has repeatedly criticised the notion of "verbal divorce," saying it is a major reason for high divorce rates in the country, and asking for a legislative amendment to impose a ban on it.

However, El-Sisi's call has faced rejection from Al-Azhar Institute's clerics, who insist that verbal divorce is part of Islamic Sharia.

Wali said that the government is holding intensive talks with Al-Azhar, Dar Al-Ifta (which is responsible for issuing religious edicts), the Coptic Orthodox Church, and the National Council for Women to implement an anti-divorce programme titled 'Married to Live Together.'

She said that the programme is being funded by a grant from the UN Family and Population Organisation.

"A number of professors from Egyptian universities will implement this programme in rural areas where divorce rates are high, and this will be in the form of launching awareness campaigns and giving training to young graduates to spread a message against divorce there," said Wali.

Wali also said that the Ministry of Social Solidarity is also working to stand up to the phenomenon of homeless children and child labour in Egypt.

"The 'Long Live Egypt' fund and the Ministry of Social Solidarity are providing EGP 190 million to address the problems of child labour and street children in terms of giving them refuge in 'specialized institutions' or sending them back to their families," said Wali, revealing that "as many as 985 street children have so far been returned to their families."

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